Child custody and visitation are often the most emotional and contentious issue in a divorce. While some parents set aside their differences and focus on the needs of their children, others are not able to see past their own fear and pain. Divorcing parents should understand what custody conflict is and where their situation falls on the scale between low-level of conflict and high-level of parental conflict would profoundly affect the children.
A divorce with a medium to high level of custody conflict is one where parents, or one of the parents, demonstrate an physical aggression or threats of physical aggression and have difficulty communicating or lack of communication about the care of the minor children. The parents are angry and distrustful and exchanges between them are defined by ongoing and continuous verbal abuse. Moreover, parents use the children as a conduit of parental anger and conflict.
By comparison, in a low conflict divorce, parents are able to communicate freely and constructively, and they can easily prioritize the needs of child versus their own goals and objectives. In a medium conflict breakup, parents have some or little contact and transitions for child are from school, daycare or neutral settings. The parents need to establish communication rules. In a high conflict situation, however, parents may not have any contact and there may have safety issues.
Based on levels of conflict between the parents before and during the divorce parenting mediators, parenting coordinators and the courts may utilize different techniques, methods or appointments or a guardian ad litem to help the parents and the Courts define parenting plans that are in the best interest of the children.
In a divorce, high parental conflict damages children by making them overly vigilant, giving them inaccurate perception and evaluation of situations or future relationships, a distrust of others. They come to fear abandonment. As the child grows, they become more vulnerable because they become the object of fighting. The child may experience cycles of fear and anxiety that do not come from actual or real experiences.